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Staunton State Park prepares to open to public in October

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By Gaby Zastrocky

Staunton State Park is on track to open to the public in October, as volunteer recruitment, partner development and construction progress.

A firm date for the opening of Colorado’s newest state park — on 3,500 acres north of Shaffers Crossing — will be set sometime in August, said park manager Jennifer Marten.

Community partners and volunteers

The Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife hosted two open houses in April to recruit volunteers to help build and maintain the park and partners to raise money for it.

“Attendance was overwhelming,” Marten said. “It was a great turnout.”

The open houses netted five people who are starting up a Friends of Staunton State Park nonprofit that will help raise funds and garner interest. They are still finishing the process to become a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Marten said.

Of the 77 people who requested information on volunteering at the open house, 58 turned in volunteer applications, Marten said. Most of them recently completed training, and are helping with wildlife and plant monitoring, pulling down old barbed-wire fencing throughout the park, developing signs for the trails, and doing more fire mitigation. 

Since the park will host a rock-climbing program, volunteers are surveying the park to identify the best areas for climbing. The volunteers found a spot called Staunton Rocks and have been identifying routes for climbers.

Mitigation, trails and construction

Crews from contractor Rue Logging Inc. worked on fuel mitigation in areas of the park from January to March, and, with the help of some volunteers, have brought the amount of mitigated parkland up to almost 1,300 acres. High-risk areas, not the entire park, will be mitigated, Marten said.

“The biggest thing is doing the thinning of the trees and also doing strategic patch cuts to form natural fuel breaks,” she said. 

Trail construction  began in the fall of 2011. The park’s first phase will have 18 miles of trails, with 10 miles for hikers, bicyclists and horses, and 8 miles for hikers only. The park will not have trails for all-terrain vehicles.

About 15 miles of trails already have been roughed in with machinery by Northwest Woodland Services. The trails now will need to be smoothed out by hand.

Marten said more miles of trails will be constructed in later phases of development.

Other construction that needs to be finished before the park opens includes the entry structures and parking, picnic areas, and a group picnic facility that people can reserve and rent.

Jefferson County Planning and Zoning approved the plans in March, but the department is still working on getting all the permits for construction, Marten said. 

The park has struggled for several months to keep out trespassers, and beefed-up security hasn’t kept them out. Marten said area residents should respect the department’s wishes now, especially with ongoing construction projects in the park.

“We’re still having issues with trespassers,” Marten said. “It’s a huge safety issue.”

Future plans

The park’s master plan includes several more phases, but none of them has funding or a timeline in place, Marten said. Eventually, planners hope to include:

• Phase 2: Campgrounds that are accessible either by car or by a short walk from a parking lot.

• Phase 3: Backcountry cabins, yurts and campsites.

• Phase 4: Suggestions for this phase have included an environmental education center, a shuttle system to transport people to and from trailheads, and other “higher-end amenities,” Marten said.

For more information about the park or how to volunteer, call Jennifer Marten at 303-816-0912.

Contact Gabrielle Porter at gabrielle@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1043.